On September 1, 2016 John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, said that it would apologize for its history with slaves and that their descendants would get admissions priority. His offer to the descendants fell short of the request for a scholarship fund from many descendants but a process has been put in place to continue the dialogue about further steps. It was a shock to many that a university operated by Jesuit priests owned slaves. Even more startling was the revelation that Georgetown priests sold 272 slaves to plantation owners in Louisiana in 1838 to provide funds to get the University out of debt.
I was intrigued when I heard the announcement so I decided to dig a little deeper into the background story. If you would like to read more about it, I recommend the following links:
The genesis of this apology was a family history project! A woman hired a professional genealogist to learn about her Louisiana ancestors. “My Goal Was Just to Tell My Story” Profile of Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, descendant of one of the Georgetown slaves.
The full text of President DeGioia's message can be found here.
April 2016 NY Times article regarding Georgetown's search for slave descendants
May 2016 NY Times article which profiled several of the Georgetown slave descendants included this comment: "I Have A Million Questions for My Ancestors Now"
September 2016 Article on Slate: How Do Descendants of Slaves Find Their Ancestors?
Georgetown Slavery Archive
The inventory of documents related to slavery at Georgetown.
One page in the Georgetown Slavery Archive Related to Descendants stories that I found particularly interesting.
Some of my unresolved questions are:
- How will Georgetown offer admission priority to slave descendants?
- What level of proof will be required for descendants to become eligible for admission priority?
- Will there be a searchable database of the Georgetown slave descendants?
- Will this effort by Georgetown be a model for other institutions to follow?